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Russia rejects European court order to release Navalny

Europe’s rights court tells Russia to release jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny out of concern for his life, but Moscow swiftly rejects the call.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken opponent, was arrested and jailed upon returning to Russia last month following months of treatment in Germany for a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

His jailing sparked the largest anti-government demonstrations in years and a new crisis in Russia’s ties with the West, whose leaders are demanding the anti-corruption campaigner be set free.

Navalny, 44, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights for his release on January 20, just days after his arrest at a Moscow airport, saying his life was in danger if he remained in custody.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a class cage during a hearing in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, February 2, 2021. (Moscow City Court via AP)

The Strasbourg-based court says it has upheld that request and tells Moscow to release Navalny “with immediate effect”.

It says that the ruling was taken with “regard to the nature and extent of risk to the applicant’s life.”

Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, a rights body of which the ECHR is a part. Member states are obliged to enforce ECHR decisions and in the past Russia has done so, including in cases involving Navalny.

But shortly after the court makes its decision public, Russia’s justice ministry says its demands were “unreasonable and unlawful” and there were no legal grounds to release Navalny.

Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko tells the Interfax news agency that the ECHR demands represented “clear and gross interference” in the activities of Russia’s justice system.

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